In 2001, when I was asked to take photos at the WTO for the first time, I paused for more than a moment or two before committing to the exercise. After 19 years of working with the WTO, now is a good time to explain the reason for this hesitation.

For five days in May 1998 the WTO conducted its 2nd Ministerial Conference and marked the 50th anniversary of the multilateral trading system. The conference was marked by the sort of violent rioting that Geneva had rarely seen. I was 20 and was very much struck by the fact that protesters from all over the world converged on the city.

Mine is a generation that had questioned globalization and the role of the WTO. In my view, one thing the 1998 WTO lacked was a sense of transparency. Inviting me as a photographer to witness its inner workings and the people who compose it was a way of fixing that.

As years have gone by, I have understood and tried to convey that decision-making at the WTO is made by consensus and not by decree. As a photographer, witnessing the WTO as a sum of all its parts has also been a period of tremendous professional and artistic growth.

When I compare the differences between my first images and what they have become, I can only be grateful that the Information and External Relations Division has had the patience to wait so long for this evolution. Time in these halls and meeting rooms moves in mysterious ways, sometimes nearly standing still, sometimes rushing by like a flowing river. Sparkling moments of humanity light up hours of intense discussion.

To catch the photos I search for, I have learned here that the best way to see is actually to listen.

Jay Louvion

Click on any photo to open the slideshow.

All photos ę WTO/Jay Louvion.